The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, to resign after BuzzFeed News published a report Friday, in which a former staffer says Kiheun sexually harassed and inappropriately touched her during his 2016 congressional campaign.
“Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement provided to CNN.
The woman, who worked as Kihuen’s finance director, told BuzzFeed News that Kiuhen made frequent advances and propositioned her despite her repeated rejections. The woman also said that Kiuhen inappropriately touched her thigh on two separate occasions without her consent. CNN has attempted to contact the woman for comment.
The woman said she didn’t know how to report her experience at the time, but told BuzzFeed News that she spoke with someone at the DCCC to explain why she was quitting after working for Kihuen for fewer than six months, saying that she felt uncomfortable with the then-candidate. Kiuhen’s former campaign manager, Dave Chase, was made aware of the woman’s complaint. He told BuzzFeed that he confronted Kihuen, who at the time denied any wrongdoing.
Kihuen’s office did not respond to a request from comment from CNN, but in a statement told BuzzFeed that the woman was a “valued member” of his staff. He did not deny any of the allegations in the story.
“I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable,” Kihuen said. “I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my 15 years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.”
Kihuen was first elected to Congress in 2016, and previously served in Nevada’s state senate. Kihuen, who previously worked for Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, was Reid’s pick to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in the 2016 election. Kihuen has described Reid as a mentor and a friend.
The allegations come as lawmakers are under increased pressure to respond quickly to sexual harassment allegations within Capitol Hill. In recent weeks, members of both parties have faced allegations against male members, and ethics investigations were opened into two Democrats, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.